PRAYING IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-02-77 7:30 p.m.
Now our study tonight is in a little different area, but it is one that comes out of long, long wondering at the way that we shape our prayers: Praying In The Name Of Jesus. And I praise God that our people, wherever they are in the Christian world, would always close a prayer with that word, “for we ask it in Jesus’ name or for Jesus’ sake.” People who pray in the name of Krishna, or in the name of Mohammed, or in the name of Buddha, or our Jewish friends, would not pray in the name of Jesus. So I would not in any wise discourage our people in any way, and the study tonight has no purpose even to approach the thought that we would change the frame of our prayer: Praying In The Name Of Jesus.
But what I see in myself and what I sense in practically all of us, if not all of us, is that it becomes a shibboleth, you know, a sanctified saying. It becomes a cliché. It is something that we say and we hardly realize what we mean by it. Yet, when we read the unconditional promise of our Lord, it must have some profounder and deeper meaning than just the saying of those words, as though they were an “open sesame”—just say the word and all of this would come to pass. For example, our Lord will say in John 14:13, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it” [John 14:13-14]. Then again in the sixteenth chapter of John and verse 23 and verse 24:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Now, that sounds so unconditional. Just ask: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do.” “If you ask any thing in My name, I will do it” [John 14:13-14]. Then, “Lord God in heaven, in the name of Jesus,” and then just name anything? Is it that way? “Lord, give me five million dollars,” or “Lord, Lord, make me the king of England, or the president of the United States,” or just ask anything? Is that what that means? There must be, therefore, and obviously, a profound meaning in that that is not exhibited in just the saying of those words, ““We ask it in Jesus’ name. So we are going to look this evening in this study of what it would be to ask in the name of Jesus. The ultimate and final and basic meaning, of course, is that we are to ask as if it were Jesus asking.
What would Jesus ask for if He were in my stead, kneeling in my place? Asking in Jesus’ name, that is, as though He were offering the petition to the Father: it is a prayer that we lay before God in His place, in His stead, for His sake. What would then Jesus ask for? What did He want for Himself and for others? Which would mean, what kind of a life did He live?
Now, when we look at our Lord and the kind of a petition that He would lay before the Father, His life was certainly one that denied the world and all of its blandishments and emoluments and rewards and glory. Jesus would never have prayed any kind of a prayer that brought to Him the emoluments or blandishments or cheap rewards of the world. For example, in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when Satan brought before Him the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them, Satan said, “All of this will I give Thee if Thou wilt but bow down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. And the Lord refused: “It is written,” He said, “that thou shalt worship God and Him only” [Matthew 4:10] The life of our Lord was one completely separated from all of the cheap emoluments and stipends of this world, and rather His life was one that called for His bearing a cross to death and to crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50; Hebrews 10:5-14].
If I could expatiate on that temptation for just a moment, that was the temptation. The temptation was, “I will give You the world and all of its glory without suffering, without denial, without death, and without crucifixion. I will hand it to You. I will give it to You if You will just bow down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-10]. So when we speak of praying in the name of our Lord, it would be a prayer that would have in it something of the life of self-denial and crucifixion and cross-bearing of our Lord.
Now not only was that in the life of our Savior, but that was His own call to His disciples and followers, to live the crucified life; in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, to the rich, young ruler who seemingly had everything, but his heart was so empty [Mark 10:17-22]. He had in his heart the world. He was rich. He was young. He was—he was accepted in high social status among his peers and in his community. He was a ruler of the Jews, like Nicodemus. Yet the Lord said to him, “The gate is too narrow and the way too straitened for you to enter in with the world in your heart. Get rid of your love for the world.” And then He added, “And come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21].
What the Lord gave Himself to, He asked of His disciples: the crucified life—”Take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21]. Then, in Mark 8:34, He said, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Now almost always we will define cross bearing in the sense of I have some kind of an affliction, or some kind of a discouragement, or some kind of a disappointment. I have a cross to bear, and maybe it be an in-law or it may be some business situation. I have a cross to bear. Now, I have no quarrel nor would anyone with bearing a cross in the sense of “I have a burden” and “I have a disappointment” and “I have a bleeding in my soul,” but the meaning in the Word of our Lord is not that.
A cross is an instrument of execution. A cross is something to die on. And when the Lord says, “Come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21], or “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” [Mark 8:34], what the Lord meant by that was, we’re taking up our cross on which—as His cross, He was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50]—we are crucified. To bear a cross, to take up a cross, and follow the Lord means that we are picking up an instrument of crucifixion on which some Calvary will find us nailed to the tree [Matthew 16:24].
Now that is plainly seen, that the cross is a crucifixion of your life. It is not bearing a burden or having a great sorrow. That the crucified life is what Jesus means when He says “Take up the cross” [Mark 8:34, 10:21], can be seen in the life of the apostles. For example, Paul will write, in the famous verse, in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, and dead to the world, and alive to the Lord.” The crucified life is the life of Jesus, and it is the life and spirit of Jesus by which we come before God when we pray in His name [John 14:14]. Now, what kind of a life is it, the crucified life? And what is it, dying to self?
When I look at this and when I write it out, every word that I say is a rebuke to me personally, and every part of this study is a call to confession, “O Lord, great God, how unworthy I am and how is it that I dare to come in prayer and in Jesus’ name.”
What is it, dying to self? And what kind of a life is it, the crucified life? Number one: when you can see others, especially those close to you whom you know well, when you see others prosper, and advance, and have their needs met, and wear the laurels and the crown you so earnestly coveted, when you see them reach goals you sought to attain but failed to achieve, and you can rejoice in their recognition and their prosperity with no spirit of envy, then you have died to self. You are living the crucified life.
Number two: when you see the needs of others fully met with an abundance besides, while your own needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances, and you do not question God nor fail to be glad for the good fortune of these others, that is dying to self. You are living the crucified life.
Three: when you do not seek commendation, or congratulation, or glory, or recognition for your own good works, when you come to the place that you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, when you bear to be truly unknown and unrecognized and do not resent it or think of yourself as a failure, that is dying to self. That is living the crucified life. As one man said, “You can do a lot of good in this world if you don’t mind who gets the credit for it.”
Number four: when someone beneath you in place and standing corrects you, when someone of less stature than you brings you reproof and you receive it humbly, submitting inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, that is living the crucified life. That is dying to self.
Number five: when you are quiet and content in whatever lot God has cast your life, happy with the food, or the raiment, or the house, or the climate, or the society, or every other circumstance of life, then you have died to self. You are living the crucified life as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13:
For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
All of which would say that whenever God finds us finding fault, murmuring, unhappy with our lot and fortune, we are not living the crucified life. We have not died to self.
O Lord, Lord! I presume I would be forgiven if I speak about the life of the ministry in which my life is been cast, so let’s look at them. You go to an evangelistic conference; I’d say two-thirds of the preachers there want to move. I am besieged when I go to any kind of a convocation. The preacher will want to visit with me, and what does he want to visit with me about? He wants to move. He doesn’t like where he is. He’s not happy where he is, and he wants to move.
I say that I am not as acquainted with other professions as I am in the clergy. But when I look at that, I think, O dear God in heaven, what if the man really gave himself to the work of the Lord? What if he did? And what if he began to pray for God to bless him right where he is; not looking or seeking some other place, some other area, some other field, some other church, some other ministry, but right where he is?
I so well remember John R. Sampey, our professor of Hebrew in the seminary at Louisville, returning from a revival meeting in Missouri. And when he returned, he had the spirit of up-ness in his heart. It was in his voice. It was in his teaching. It was in everything about him. There was revival in him. He was at that time the president of our seminary in Louisville; a world-famed Hebrew scholar. Well, what had happened was this: he came back and gave us a report on the revival meeting he’d held in Missouri. He said that what happened in the church was the pastor, who was a graduate of the seminary in Louisville, had become greatly discouraged in the work, in the ministry, and finally announced to his wife that he was going to resign the church and he was going to quit the ministry. He was no longer going to be a preacher.
I read an article this morning in Christianity Today, one of the current religious periodicals, and the article concerns the vast number of preachers that are leaving the ministry, and even more so, the priesthood in the Roman Catholic communion. It is an increasing thing, and it is everywhere. They are weary of it, they are tired of it, they are discouraged with it, and they are leaving the ministry. Well, this young fellow was like that. He was weary, he was discouraged, he was tired, he felt himself failing, so he announced to his wife, “I am going to resign, and I am going to quit. I am going to quit the ministry.”
Well, his wife must have been a very wise and godly woman, and she said to him, “Now, husband, if that is what you want to do, that is fine. I will help you in whatever else you decide. But one thing I ask of you before you do it. Would you get up an hour earlier each day and pray? Would you do that for my sake? Just try it: an hour earlier each day, and spend the hour in prayer.”
Well, you couldn’t say no to an invitation like that. So he started. He prayed five minutes; it was like an eternity. He finally got himself to where he could pray ten minutes; it was like two ages. He finally got around to praying fifteen minutes; it was just like an endless time to pray fifteen minutes. But he stayed with it, and as the days passed, he found himself beginning to pray for the deacons, and to pray for the Sunday school teachers, and to pray for the members of the flock, and then to pray for the bereaved, and then to pray for the lost, and to pray for the community.
And the spirit of prayer and intercession began to fill his heart as he interceded for the people. They caught the spirit and they began to pray, and there was a new spirit and a new heart and a new outpouring in the community. And the president of our seminary said when he arrived there, it was in the midst of a great revival. And it was an outpouring in his own spirit. Now that is God in us! When I am unhappy with my lot, and I am weary with my assignment, and I am restive and full of murmuring, I am not dying to self, and I am not living the crucified life, and I am not praying in the name of Jesus.
Number six: when you can accept any interruption by the will and choice of the sovereign, elective purpose of God, when you can lovingly and patiently bear any disorder or irregularity, any impunctionality or any annoyance, when you can so easily see the poor performance of those who work with you and from whom you have expected so much and endure it as Jesus endured it, patiently, you are living the crucified life; you have died to self—which is a thing I simply thus far in my life have not been able to do. I get furious in my heart with the way a lot of people do and work. I get so impatient with them. They have assignments, and they are not done, or they are poorly done. And they offer to God—even though they say to me, “I have been called of the Lord”—they offer to God such a poor sacrifice and such a halting ministry.
Lord, Lord, what do I do with my heart? Well, I must be as Jesus did, and was, when His disciples were so slow to learn and such poor examples of what they ought to be; lovingly, patiently, accepted. And pray and ask God to help them, and maybe to help me to help them, as I pray they will ask God to help me, and to accept an interdiction from God in a plan or a program that I have envisaged, or that we have envisaged, or that comes out of human ingenuity; just to accept it. “Lord, if this is not Thy will, then Thy will be done,” and just receive it as from God’s hands, and seek then to find the mind of God in what we ought to do. O God, that I could be like that.
Seven: when you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at nought, and you do not steam in hurt because of the thoughtless oversight or the intended insult, but you are happy in your heart, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self. That is the crucified life. What do others think or what do others say? That ought not to matter to us. It is just what God thinks. And how does God look upon us? Not what thing, or them, but God; working not for them, but for God, as unto the eye of the Lord.
I find so many times among our people—and I certainly sympathize and understand because I find it in myself—if we are not remembered and thanked and appreciated, why, we think, “Dear, dear, I don’t amount to anything, and I’m not doing anything and just might as well quit, and might as well not appear, or not try, or not work, or not be present.” Oh, oh, that’s just full of ourselves: thinking about ourselves and not thinking about the dear, blessed Lord to whom we give our life and for whom we have dedicated ourselves.
Number eight: when your good is evil spoken of, when your desires are disregarded, when your advice is taken lightly, when your opinions are scorned, when some of your basic persuasions are ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, yea, you even refuse to defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, that is living the crucified life; that is dying to self.
Now this is in another world, this is in the world of literature, but I have chosen to close, because my time is done—I have chosen to close with this piece of literature because it shows and it illustrates that the beautiful virtues of the Christian life are seen outside of the church and outside of the discipleship and the fellowship of Christ Himself. What is beautiful in us is also beautiful out there in the world. When you live a godly and beautiful life, it is like a shining light in the dark world. When we are fine and noble and Christian in our lives, it just glows like bright stars in the night or like the dawn of the sun in the morning.
And so I have chosen this, out of literature that you will easily and immediately recognize, as an illustration of how the beauty and the virtue of the Christian life is immediately seen in the everyday and carnal world. It is Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
And make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph or Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
[“If,” Rudyard Kipling]
And what is more, you will be a Christian example, my son. That is what it is to pray in the name of Jesus: offering to God a crucified life—nothing of me, Lord, nothing. And if in the prayer there is anything of me, Lord, forgive, but that the prayer might be all of Thee; Thy will, and Thy heart, and Thy Spirit, and Thy love, and tenderness, and mercy, and grace. Lord, Lord, nothing of self, for it is a corpse; self has died. And the prayer is prayed in the name of Jesus, in His life, as He would pray it, for His sake, in His stead; for Jesus alone.
Now may we bow our heads for the moment? And while we bow before the Lord, is there someone here tonight to give himself in faith and trust to the blessed Savior [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8], or to come into the fellowship of our dear church? We need each other, and we need the church—that is why God gave it to us [Ephesians 5:25]—and we need to pray. We need the sweet ministries of the Holy Spirit through all of the things that God has placed in this dear church. Is there somebody you tonight, to give himself to Jesus or to put his life with us? Would you hold up your hand? Anywhere, is there one, anywhere? God love you, son. Is there another? Is there another? When in a minute, just you play, and I’ll stand down here. And our Lord, we thank Thee for the boy, the young man who raises his hand, and we thank Thee, O Lord, that God has not left us alone.
When we see what we ought to be, Lord, we are so discouraged with ourselves. But when we think of what we can be, by the grace and Spirit and power of God, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. “I’m not what I ought to be, Lord, I am not what I can be, but, O blessed Jesus, I am on the way. With God’s help, I’m going to press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14]. And in that devotion and spirit and optimism, may we run our race with patience [Hebrews 12:1], looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. Now bless the young man who comes. In Thy precious name, amen.